Meet Emma Holland Denvir: Modern Furniture and Jewelry Designer
I was first introduced to Emma Holland Denvir when she graciously reached out and wanted me to wear some of her signature jewelry pieces. They were so uniquely architectural and intriguing in design/construction that I agreed to it almost immediately. Soon thereafter, we met up casually a couple of times, bonded over some hemp lattes (so so incredibly LA of us) and quickly became creative minds alike. It's been awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping to watch Emma evolve as both a jewelry/furniture designer and entrepreneur. I had the opportunity and privilege to dig a little deeper into how she discovered her true calling...and the origins of her name -- just because it is totally dope.
First of all - tell us about your “obsession” with your name. (Read: We know it’s not narcissistic)
I was super lucky to be given my name, thank you parents! I always knew it was destined to be a name for something bigger than just me. I took it upon myself to doodle my name on every available surface as a child, signing my entire name in cursive, bubble letters, etc… getting into branding at a very young age.
Emma is a family name on my mother’s side, and my middle name, Holland, comes from my late aunt Holly, my mother’s sister. Holly introduced me to art and being creative and kooky at a young age. Since she passed, I knew that I needed to have her name as part of my brand identity. When I started making furniture, I initially called my brand Holland Design Studio, but I thought this sounded too stuffy and people online kept thinking I was in Holland! So I changed it to my full name, which I think is more fitting as my brand is a direct expansion of me.
And my super cool last name, Denvir, is thanks to my dad’s Irish Catholic family. We are distantly related to the Denver family that founded Denver, Colorado, I can tell you that story another time ;)
What is your creative process like - from conceptualization to production? (Don’t worry, no need to spill all the secrets!)
My creative process largely takes place in the woodshop. I find that it is very hard to design without knowing the material you are working with. With my first line of jewelry, for example, I went into the shop and started cutting geometric shapes on a bandsaw. Different types of chevrons started popping out as scraps, and I ran with that. I am most inspired by infrastructure - particularly bridges & underpasses, shapes that are in construction sites like I-beams, architectural drawings, grids, etc.
When did you first discover your love for jewelry design and furniture making? Was there a singular defining moment that led to all this?
After graduating from Georgetown in May 2010, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had studied art history and I knew that working in a gallery wasn’t my thing. My junior year, my oldest brother, Dan, suggested I look into product design. He had seen a puzzle piece candy box I had created that year out of foam core for a 3D Design course. It had been my favorite thing I had ever created at the time, and probably the first thing I truly sat down and designed and then prototyped [without knowing what a prototype was]. As a good little sister does, I ignored Dan’s suggestion for an entire year. Graduation quickly approached and I started to panic. I had no clue what skills I had, and if I did have any, what was I going to do with them? I googled product design and found this entire world that I didn’t know existed. I decided that I did in fact, want to be a product designer.
I found a course at University of Maryland in 3D Design for June 2010 right after I graduated. I figured I could build a portfolio and apply to grad school. I was extremely lucky with the class I chose at random. Foon Sham, a well known international woodworker and sculptor, was my professor. He immediately became an inspiration and a mentor and we are still in touch. Before that summer I had never used a drill, and I quickly became a woodshop rat. I studied and created sculpture with Foon for one year, then taught myself furniture design under his guidance.
As soon as I started to make furniture, I began to hoard my scraps. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with them and after months of hoarding, it clicked -- I should make jewelry. I’ve always experimented with my fashion, and loved big chunky jewelry. I remember heading into the woodshop on a Sunday in the spring of 2012, finding a drill bit that looked like it was a similar diameter to my ring finger, and made my first ring.
THE Wood Shop Life
How did you end up in Los Angeles, specifically, Echo Park? Was that always the plan from the get-go?
I didn’t have a fully-fleshed out plan beyond going to grad school. I ended up in LA because I attended Art Center for a hot second in the fall of 2012. I dropped out after my first semester, quickly realizing it was not the school for me. I am so happy that I chose Art Center, even though we didn’t jive, because it brought me out to LA. I initially lived in Santa Monica [which makes no sense as an Art Center student] and also quickly realized it wasn’t my spot. I visited Echo Park and immediately loved the neighborhood feel. I love living here. It feels very small town, which is so wonderful because starting your own business solo in the sprawling city of Los Angeles, with your family across the country, can often feel extremely lonely. I feel at home in Echo Park and have created a community of friends that feels like family.
Aside from your devoted dedication to your own growing brand, what and who matters most to you?
My friends, family, and kittens are very important to me. I have three brothers, who I am slowly recruiting out here. I’ve already snagged my little brother, Jack, who came out here for college last year. I am hoping my middle brother, Jamie, will take the leap and come out here too! I am fortunate that my parents are able to visit a fair amount. My three kittens, Twiggy, Huck, and Marcel have become my feline children and I have quickly become a cat lady, which I am 100% okay with.
Where do you see yourself and the brand in the near future? Would love to hear about any exciting projects that you’re working on!
I would love to be selling internationally soon. I think that my designs are particularly great for certain countries in Europe, China, and Japan. I can’t wait for the day when my business, that I have started, takes me on trips around the world. I got chills just typing that.
Right now I am working on a really cool collaboration with Future Eyes. We’ve created some really unique and rad pieces that we are in the process of launching. I am also collaborating with Sharpe Suiting, an androgynous suiting company based in LA. I am really excited about their company and I am happy to be working with such a unique and progressive group.
If you could name one prominent person that you’d want to collaborate with - who would it be and why?
This is a super tough question. I would have to say Rick Owens. He designs in his own world, unconcerned with trends, norms, appropriateness, etc. I love that. Not only is he a fashion designer, but he creates amazing furniture. It’s rare to find people that are able to cross design boundaries the way that he does, and with such a strong voice.
How do you uphold the mission of Styletelling in your day to day life?
I’ve never been super aware of trends, labels, or what is in in fashion. My wardrobe is eclectic yet minimal, and I have a different style nearly everyday. I grew up very preppy then transitioned into dressing more boho as I grew into my artist self. My fashion has always really represented what phase of life I am in. I feel like I am still growing into the woman I am, and my fashion is constantly evolving. I am a confident and creative being and my fashion expresses that.
Experimenting with fashion, hair, makeup, no makeup, etc., helps me stay creative and expressive. In order to start your own business, you have to have a lot of self love and feel empowered. Walking out of the door thinking, no, knowing, you look kick-ass is an automatic self-esteem boost.
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Words and Photography | Tommy Lei
Styling | Emma Holland Denvir